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IAA MOBILITY Weekly: Space Taxi to the Sky

Nov 20, 2020

The most expensive taxi ride in the world has been successfully completed and even has geopolitical significance. Road maps will soon show large numbers of electric charging points. And in the meantime Sting is putting lawn-mower batteries into e-bikes. Read about all this and more in the IAA Weekly.

© Nasa
© Nasa

The lead: a great step for space mobility

The longest taxi ride of the week was successfully completed late Monday evening (US Eastern Standard Time). After a 27-hour flight and at altitudes exceeding 4,000,000 m, the “Crew Dragon” spacecraft docked with the International Space Station (ISS). The space taxi delivered the US astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker and the Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi to the ISS safely and more punctually than any Berlin cab. The crew will spend six months on humankind’s most far-flung outpost.

Interesting facts: this was the first crewed space flight to launch from US territory in nine years. The last US-based launch was in 2011, when the Space Shuttle “Atlantis” departed from Cape Canaveral, Florida, taking four astronauts into orbit.

The second SpaceX mission of the year, which has captured attention worldwide, increases the lead of Elon Musk’s mobility company over competing private space travel projects. Whereas SpaceX has two reusable spaceships (“Crew Dragon” and “Cargo Dragon”), its competitor Boeing is still developing its CST-100 Starliner. In addition, SpaceX was able to demonstrate once again that its Falcon rockets could be reused. This was a great step for space mobility, and a small one for the environment.

Yet the most striking aspect of this mission is its political dimension. Until recently, the US was reliant on the technology of its arch-rival Russia to transport astronauts and cargo to the ISS, but now the space-loving United States has regained its independence. And at home, the success had another extremely rare effect. Outgoing US President Donald Trump and his designated successor Joe Biden were of one opinion: both of them praised the mission. The project was in fact initiated by former US President Barack Obama who, before he left office, commissioned Boeing and SpaceX to design and build space shuttles.

Infrastructure: a different topography

While the “Zugspitze” is Germany’s highest mountain peak, the meeting between the vehicle sector, industrial associations and politicians is probably the country’s most important summit. The “auto summit” held early this year included much debate on types of powertrains, but now progress is evidently being made toward renewable energy. The incentive scheme for all-electric cars (scheduled to finish at the end of 2021) was extended by four years, until 2025. Small and medium-segment vehicles benefit the most, with the state providing up to 6,000 euros per passenger car. A “scrapping bonus” for trucks was also announced, and support for purchasing electric trucks and alternatives with more environmentally friendly diesel powertrains will be increased.

The most permanent boost to e-mobility in Germany could come from the announced investments in the charging infrastructure. The German Government wishes to install 50,000 new charging points across the country by the end of 2021 to create a dense charging network for electric vehicles.

Quote of the week: fully OK

Dane Glasgow, Vice President of Product Google Maps, has promised users of his service a new tool for combating the pandemic. In the future Google Maps will show users how full their local public transport is (provided data are available) – and indicate whether using it is associated with an increased risk of infection. Glasgow explains all the innovations in his article on the Google blog.

„You’ll start seeing how crowded your bus, train, or subway line is.“

Dane Glasgow, Vice President Product Google Maps

Figure of the week: 20

Electric vehicles’ relatively short ranges and long charging times are two challenges that stimulate engineers’ creativity. A project run jointly by the German Fraunhofer Institute and the Dutch Research Council might have found a solution to these problems by revolutionizing battery technology. The patented “Spatial Atom Layer Deposition” (SALD) should guarantee ranges of way over 1,000 kilometers. And what is almost more exciting, the new hi-tech system made in Germany could reduce charging times for electric vehicles to under 20 minutes. The “t3n” magazine explains what is behind this far-out idea.

LinkedIn top voice of the week

Sabine Scheunert is driving the digitalisation of Mercedes-Benz Cars in order to growth as a meaningful mobility provider. She talks about future mobility topics like Digital Customer Experiences, Digital Culture and New Working Methods.


Innovation update: every battery you need

Apropos batteries: Sting is also creative – not the British pop singer, but Professor Martin Sting from the Mittelhessen University of Applied Sciences. The keen cyclist and mechanical engineer says he kept on wracking his brains about this problem: for bicycles, drills and lawn mowers – he always needed several batteries to operate his devices. Replacement batteries for pedelecs and e-scooters? They were difficult to obtain, expensive and not very sustainable. And so he and his students developed a system enabling the same rechargeable battery to power several different machines.

Not many people know this: the output of a lawn mower’s motor is similar to that of a pedelec. In several years of painstaking work, Martin Sting and his students managed to equip three e-scooters and a pedelec with identical batteries. The team produced the special holders that keep the batteries in the right position in their own laboratory using a 3-D printer. The inventors from the small German town of Friedberg want to develop an alternative battery that conserves resources and represents good value for money. According to a report in the “Hessenschau” TV news, Prof. Sting is now considering either launching a start-up, or making the instructions for building the power packs available on the internet free of charge.

"Hunger-sensitive safety belts" - Copyright Sixt and Burger King

Did you know… about hunger-sensitive safety belts? They have been invented by the car rental company Sixt and the fast-food chain Burger King – at least for advertising purposes. The basic idea is simple. Hunger pangs are regarded as one of the most frequent causes of lost concentration while driving. Now a safety belt can detect a rumbling stomach and recommend the hungry driver (via a loudspeaker) to take a break for a snack at the next drive-in. Sixt fitted some vehicles with these wacky belts for filming advertisements – and sent the testers straight to the cooperation partner.